I’m a police chaplain. I fully and completely support our police officers. I have the privilege to call many of these men and women friends. I trust them completely. I would, without hesitation, hand over my 7 month old daughter to them for protection. I work with the Mint Hill Police department on a regular basis and have nothing but respect for the men and women who serve our community. They do it with class, commitment, honor, respect, dignity, professionalism and skill. I have seen first hand the sacrifices that these men and women make physically and emotionally as they serve our community. The sacrifice at times is unspeakable. The depth of depravity that these men and women see on a regular basis is unforgettable. One officer shared with me how he arrived on scene one night to find a mother beaten beyond recognition cradling her infant in an effort to protect the baby from her abusive partner. Those type of encounters change your life. The images are seared into your memory and will never be forgotten. They affect your heart and mind for the rest your life. Can you imagine seeing that and then coming home to a husband or wife, maybe even children, and being expected to function like everything is ok? This is what our men and women in uniform do every day.
But I am also a pastor. God has called me to proclaim His truth and love His people. Can I support our men and women in uniform and also speak out against racism? I believe I can and I must. There is still racism at work around us. I saw it first hand yesterday as I picked up my niece from the airport. She was an unaccompanied minor so I had to go behind security to pick her up. As I waited for her at the gate to come off the plane I noticed an older gentleman stop by the counter to ask the ticket agent some questions. People had to go around him to get off the plane. Another couple, both black, came up behind him and were also waiting to ask the ticket agent questions. As she finished up with the man she began to fuss at the younger couple telling them they couldn’t stand in the walkway and that there were TV’s available to help them with the information they needed. I didn’t think much of it at first until that group of people walked off and another group came up. Several other people, all white, stopped to ask the ticket agent questions and she had no problem helping them even though they were standing in the walkway. What might be interesting for you to know about this situation was that ticket agent wasn’t black or white. It turns out that racism comes in many sizes, shapes and ethnicities.
You see social media seems to say that the police force and racism go hand in hand. I believe that is a false dichotomy. Racism doesn’t exist in the police department; it exists in peoples’ hearts. We cannot afford to pit our police offers against other people or groups that want to see racial equality and racial reconciliation. These groups are not mutually exclusive. We can love the black community and love our police officers. There are people who support racial equality and justice who deeply respect and love our police officers. There are also police officers who have nothing but the greatest respect and concern for minorities. Until we are willing to analyze our own hearts and deal with the racism at its root then we have no hope of change or equality. We must stop blaming our communities, the police department or those that seek racial equality, and we must start blaming the sin that exists in our hearts. When we deal with the sin of racism in our own hearts then, and only then, will our actions begin to reflect our hearts.
This applies to me as much as anyone. I once believed that I wasn’t part of the problem. I grew up in Africa as a missionary kid. Most of my friends were African. I was the minority for most of my childhood. Later in life my wife and I gave almost two years of our married life as missionaries in Kenya, Africa. Surely I couldn’t be part of the problem. But then a friend of mine, an older and much wiser pastor told me over coffee, “Richard, I didn’t think that I was part of the problem either, until my daughter came home from college dating a man who had a different skin color and a different culture. It was then that I realized that deep down in my heart there was the sin of racism.” That conversation was the beginning of a journey that made me realize I, too, am part of the problem. I am part of the problem because I am a pastor and have not spoken out in support of my friends and colleagues who face racism every day. I am part of the problem because I do not love and support the community of police officers who serve our city like I should. I would rather hide behind statistics or an article on social media that supports my view point instead of empathizing with the hurt and fear that both communities have felt over the last few weeks. The church must not remain silent on these issues. The church must speak the truth of God’s Word into the hurt, fear and division that is gripping our communities.
So the question is, “What do we do?” Well, the first place we must start is with our own hearts. We must search out the sin of racism that hides in our own sinful nature. The only hope for a changed society are changed hearts and the only way to change hearts is the life-giving Gospel of Christ. Repentance and forgiveness must take root in our hearts and communities before change can take affect. The next step is to live out the gospel. We must make friends with people who don’t look like us. We must care about people who have a different culture than we do: ask them how they feel. Listen to their fears and their dreams. Weep with them and laugh with them. Care about them deeply.
And finally, we must be willing to stand up for each other when we see people treated unjustly. We can’t stand up for them out of a false sense of social justice or racial pride. We must stand up for them because we love them and want the best for them. When we are willing to apply the gospel of Christ to the deepest, darkest recesses of our hearts then, and only then, will we start to see racism or hatred towards police officers and others replaced with respect and love for our fellow man. Would you join me in praying for our nation and our community? Would you join me as we search our own hearts to see if we are part of the problem? Would you join me in seeking after forgiveness and taking steps to see change? Would you join me as we support both the police officers who sacrificially serve our community and the people in our community who don’t look like you? Our only hope for change is Christ and His gospel. May Christ be exalted in our midst and our community as hatred and racism is replaced by love and respect.
Your Brother in Christ,